2023 Conference Breakout Sessions

Conference Agenda

Link to Breakout Sessions Presentations and Handouts


Registration & Continental Breakfast/Exhibitor Fair/Client Assistance and Services Help Desk*  
8:30am – 9:30am

*DRNC advocates and attorneys will be onsite to answer questions and provide information.

Breakout Sessions 1

9:30am – 10:30am

Presenters: Virginia Fogg, Reighlah Collins and Lucy Hatchell

Sometimes children with disabilities do not receive appropriate special education services or protections that they are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Parents and school officials sometimes disagree on what special education services and placement a child should receive under IDEA. Members of DRNC’s education team will cover how to spot these legal issues, options for dispute resolutions in NC, how to frame legal issues, and likely outcomes if disputed.

Presenters: Elizabeth Myerholtz and Alexandra Southerland

Disability is the most common discrimination complaint under the Fair Housing Act, even eclipsing race discrimination. The most common complaints relating to disability in housing involve assistance animals, both service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs). This session will discuss the difference between the two and the statutes and regulations that govern a tenant’s right to use and keep assistance animals in housing.

Presenters: Chris Hodgson and Holly Stiles

This Rooted in Rights original documentary exposes the exploitation of labor of people with disabilities through personal stories and expert interviews. It also presents clear employment alternatives offering competitive wages and community inclusion. Seven years after its release, the struggle to end segregated employment continues across the country and here in North Carolina. Watch the documentary and then join DRNC attorneys Chris Hodgson and Holly Stiles in session 2 for a conversation about the current state of segregated employment in NC.

Presenters: Andy Anderson, Gabriella Bush, Katerin Castro, Barbara Daniels, Connie Dixon, Kiara Mcleod, Ashleigh Swayze

Since 2018 Disability Rights NC’s Rep Payee team has traversed the state of North Carolina interviewing nearly 2,000 disabled people where they live, making sure they are safe and that they know their rights. In addition to reviewing mounds of financial records and getting help if people are being harmed, this small group of excellent investigators, many with a social work background, not only help the individuals they encounter, but are able to notify DRNC attorneys to issues we may not be aware of otherwise and create an opportunity for legal advocacy and systemic change. Meet the members of DRNC’s Rep Payee team and hear anecdotal stories of the impact of their work in the community. 


Breakout Sessions 2

11:00am – 12:00pm

Presenters: Corye Dunn and Mellonee Kennedy

Guardianship is an extreme form of intervention in a person’s life. Under guardianship, control over personal and/or financial decisions is transferred to someone else for an indefinite, often permanent period of time. Involuntary Commitment is a legal procedure that temporarily restricts the liberty of a person in the name of preventing harm to themselves or another. This session will focus on protecting the legal rights of people with disabilities to make our own decisions.

Presenters: Lisa Nesbitt and Joonu Coste


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is more common than many people
think, with as many as one in 20 school-aged children affected. Therapeutic interventions, special education and support services improve outcomes for those with FASD and their families. This session will provide an overview of FASD, the different ways it can manifest itself, how it intersects with mental health, and the role that Medicaid can play in providing critical services for individuals with FASD.

Presenters: Chris Hodgson and Holly Stiles

In North Carolina, over a thousand people with disabilities work in facilities where all their co-workers are people with disabilities, where they are often earning less than the minimum wage for their labor. After viewing Bottom Dollars in session 1, join DRNC attorneys Chris Hodgson and Holly Stiles for a conversation about segregated employment in NC and DRNC’s ongoing advocacy to provide people with disabilities informed choice about their employment. Participants are invited to engage with us as we reflect on the status quo and envision a future where competitive integrated employment is an achievable option and choice available to everyone with a disability who wants it.  

Presenters: Kelly Friedlander and Kelly Woodall

Learn about ALP-NC, a leadership training program funded by the NC Council for Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) where adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), family members and professionals in the field learn and work together building the collective leadership of our state. Our presenters, Kelly and Kelly with Community Bridges will share an overview of the Ability Leadership Project and provide practical advice on networking and how to make the connections to make things happen. Like what you see? Applications are open for future trainings.


12:00pm – 12:45pm

Plenary Speaker: Marlene Sallo, Executive Director, NDRN in a Conversation with DRNC CEO Virginia Knowlton Marcus

12:45pm – 1:25pm


Breakout Sessions 3

1:35pm – 2:35pm

Presenter: Emma Kinyanjui

What do attorneys need to consider when representing a client who may have diminished capacity? How do you identify if this is an issue and, if so, what are your responsibilities to those clients? Using the N.C. Rules of Professional Responsibility as a guide, session attendees with discuss and explore these and other tough ethical issues including how to preserve attorney-client privilege, how to communicate best with clients with diminished capacity, and how to deal with conflicts.

Presenters: Craig Waleed, EdD; Sarah Hoffman

Solitary confinement is harmful to all and disproportionately impacts people with disabilities. Learn about solitary confinement in North Carolina and DRNC’s #EndSolitaryNC initiative funded through Unlock the Box, a national advocacy campaign aimed at ending solitary confinement in all US prisons, jails, detention facilities, and juvenile facilities. Led by Dr. Craig Waleed, the End Solitary NC Coalition includes faith-based advocates, human rights and criminal justice advocates, reentry support advocates, and academic researchers. #EndSolitaryNC is also supported by Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fellow Sarah Hoffman, who utilizes DRNC’s access authority to collect information about solitary confinement and the challenges faced by incarcerated people with mental health disabilities. The session features pre-recorded first-person accounts of solitary and ends in a call to action.

Presenters: Talley Wells and Pam Hunter Dempsey

North Carolina is facing a double crisis: too many people on the waiting list for services and not enough of a workforce to provide the help they need. The film UNMET: North Carolina’s Two Developmental Disability Crises explores what it’s like for people as they try to get a waiver and the recent workforce shortage that may delay their care. Following a viewing of the newly released 25-minute film, representatives of the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities, who commissioned the documentary, will lead a conversation on how individuals with unmet needs struggle to live full and meaningful lives in the community.


Breakout Sessions 4

3pm – 4pm

Presenters: Corye Dunn, Lisa Grafstein, and Emma Kinyanjui

Calling current and former residents of Intermediate Care Facilities (ICFs), family members, guardians, providers, LME/MCO representatives and others with an interest in the topic. Over the past two months, DRNC has collected information through targeted focus groups and questionnaires, with the goal to use what we learn to make findings and recommendations to improve quality and integration for people living in ICFs. North Carolina needs to be a state that moves past viewing ICFs as a funding stream, and identifies areas that ensure our residents live in the highest quality, most integrated way possible. In this session we will share the results collected to date and give participants an opportunity to be a part of the conversation

Presenters: Desireé Gorbea-Finalet and Luke Woollard

In fall of 2021, DRNC launched the TBI Justice Initiative, an  innovative program that addresses safety, education, training, service, and accommodation needs for people with brain injuries in NC’s criminal legal system. Project manager Desireé Gorbea-Finalet will provide and overview of the initiative which includes a partnership with our state’s five Veteran Treatment Courts (VTCs) with the goal of developing a successful initiative that will be duplicated across other NC correctional settings. Gorbea-Finalet will also spotlight her recently launched database that allows people to view what is happening in the area of brain injury and criminal legal system involvement across the US.

Presenters: Tara Muller and Kenya Myers

Join members of DRNC’s policy team as they share examples of building strength and momentum through coalition work. Learn how attorney Tara Muller and voting rights advocate Kenya Myers have made disability advocacy a part of the conversation in collaboration with other nonprofits working to serve North Carolinians. They will spotlight other DRNC initiatives and help attendees identify their own opportunities for partnerships. 

Presenter: Kishona Mimms

By the nature of the work we do, many clients and families we support have experienced trauma. A trauma-informed approach can strengthen advocacy, improve relationships, and ultimately improve outcomes. This session will provide guidance to help build more effective relationships with clients to serve their needs, work to ensure necessary service needs are met, and support clients’ current and future well-being.


Closing Session: The Power of Meaningful, Informed Choice in the Disability Community

4:15pm – 4:45pm

Luminary Reception (ticketed event)

5pm – 6pm

Additional Details

Sessions are subject to change.

*Speak with members of DRNC’s CASE team (Client Services Assistance & Engagement) Our advocates and attorneys will be onsite to answer questions and provide information.


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